“If you don’t create new opportunities within the confines of your “day job”, they may never come your way.”
About ten years ago, Herminia Ibarra was pushed “kicking and screaming” into a job as chair of her department at Insead, the business school. A year later, she was frustrated, exhausted and fed up with the way it was draining the time she used to spend writing and researching.
“My limited view of the job was negatively self-reinforcing,” Ibarra writes. “Instead of driving an agenda of things I wanted to accomplish, I stayed in reactive mode, doing the least rewarding of the administrative tasks.”
This is an all too familiar situation to many executives who are promoted because of their great work, only to learn quickly they no longer have time do the work.
Herminia Ibarra offers a concise and practical guide to many ways for leaders to escape the “competency trap” and devote more time to four important responsibilities: building bridges between their team and others outside it; crafting and explaining their vision of the future; engaging people in change; and “embodying the change”.
Managers work within established goals, procedures and structures. Leaders work outside those boundaries, explains Ibarra. However, thinking about how you are going to lead will not make you a leader. Research conducted by Ibarra and others confirms that “people become leaders by doing leadership work”, a principle she calls “outsight”, different from more inward- and backward-looking insights.
Outsight is not another management buzzword, it is a pragmatic approach to the reality of the daily existence of overwhelmed leaders. As an example, she explains in practical terms how to cultivate a network addressing the doubt of many naysayers that this practice is manipulative, advising how to overcome it, including practical exercises.
Ultimately, Ibarra provides realistic insights about what happens when people move to leadership roles: It can be “unpredictable, messy, non-linear, and emotionally charged.” In a world filled with uncertainties, Ibarra’s suggestions are much more in line with an ever-changing world and she doesn’t stick to a strict prescription and/or formula. The time where we predict how to get from A to B are over. Instead, we need to adjust constantly because “B changes as we approach it.”